Ash Sutton went into the weekend in control of the standings, with a terrible weekend at Croft in the previous round meaning four-time champion Colin Turkington had slipped from a season-long lead to third in the standings, behind Sutton and Honda’s Dan Cammish. After three races around the longest circuit on the calendar, it was all change once again, setting up a grandstand finish at the shortest circuit in Brands Hatch in three weeks’ time.
Qualifying gets a makeover
After years of the standard 30 minute open session, the BTCC decided to experiment with an F1-style split session at Snetterton. After a “traditional” 25-minute first stanza, the top ten advanced to the “Showdown”, a ten minute blast for pole. For those running front-wheel-drive there was only just about enough time for one meaningful lap, owing to the need to come in and cross tyres to get as much heat as possible. Meanwhile the rear-wheel-drive cars just stayed out to generate heat, but it took four laps before we saw anything significant on the timing screens. At the end, the cream rose to the top as Colin Turkington took yet another BTCC pole, while the ever-present Jake Hill once again started from second on the grid.
Turkington back on song
Having stuck the car on pole in Saturday’s experimental qualifying, and with a damp and slippery track to contend with, Turkington knew how important the start was going to be, and duly delivered. A huge launch off the line gave him the advantage he needed over a chasing Tom Ingram, who used the early tyre temperature of the front-wheel-drive machines to get right onto the bootlid of the BMW 3 Series. Some hard, but fair, racing kept Ingram at bay and the four-time champion then settled into a controlling drive to victory, while Ingram slipped back into a somewhat physical battle for second with Jake Hill, with the Toyota Corolla getting the better of the Civic come the chequered flag.
It was a repeat for Turkington in race two, despite a late race safety car doing its best to spoil his afternoon. A perfect jump on the field for the one lap restart gave Ingram no chance to catch the BMW and Turkington secured yet another double victory in 2020. It was almost like his Christmas had come early in the final race of the day, despite pulling number 10 for the reverse grid, Turkington worked his way up through the field with measured aggression, looking like he was on course for a top five, which itself would have been a strong result, but some drama between two cars ahead, which we’ll come to later, handed Turkington third place and some incredibly vital championship points.
It was a fairly good day in the office for Turkington’s main title rival, Ash Sutton, who secured a trio of top five finishes to stay well within the hunt going into the series finale at Brands Hatch next month, the only negative being that the Ulsterman scored more points across the three races. It seemed, however, that the sensible side of Sutton was starting to kick in, as where he would usually have been a little bit more robust in races one and two, the Infiniti driver held back a little, clearly thinking about his points tally in comparison to the leading BMW. Normal service was resumed in race three, as Sutton rolled his sleeves up to go toe-to-toe with title rivals
Turkington and Honda’s Dan Cammish. Turkington came out on top once more, taking a 9 point lead into the final round, while Cammish came home immediately behind Sutton, with the pair separated by a further 16 points.
Second wind for Ollie Jackson
Ollie Jackson turned many heads when he finally became a BTCC race winner earlier in the year, and he was desparate to prove he wasn’t a one hit wonder. Another favourable reverse grid draw for the Motorbase man saw him line up third, behind Adam Morgan’s Mercedes and the pole-sitting Hyundai of Chris Smiley. A great launch saw Jackson right up there and fighting for the lead with Morgan as Smiley dropped down the field. The Ford eventually came out on top and would lead the veteran Morgan to the finish. While Jackson was able to hold on to the lead, the pace was far from optimal, and the leading duo were soon caught by Jackson’s Motorbase teammate Rory Butcher, with Ingram’s Toyota joining the party for the final lap of the day. Nothing was going to stop Jackson, however, and the Reigate native took the second win of his career.
Ingram gets physical
Fresh from his appearance in the Goodwood Speedweek presented by Mastercard Shootout, Tom Ingram arrived at Snetterton full of beans and looking to continue the run of form that the Speedworks team has enjoyed in recent weeks. Right from the off Ingram looked racy, going door handle-to-door handle in race one, looking to capitalise on the temperature disadvantage the rear-wheel-drive BMW faced in the early laps. After Turkington had worked the tyres up to temperature, it was Jake Hill’s turn to battle with Ingram, with the two coming together into Montreal. While Hill made his way through, fearing a trip to the ToCA bus, he allowed Ingram back through and the two stayed line astern for the final few laps. The incident drew plenty of attention on social media, with Jason Plato – who had been watching from his local drinkery – stating that the move was the fault of Ingram, and Hill shouldn’t have yielded the position, an opinion the Toyota driver vehemently disagreed with.
Ingram was at the centre of controversy once again at the end of the day, as his move on Rory Butcher into the final corner ended with both drivers off the road. Carrying much more speed, Ingram dived down the inside going through Coram, leaving Butcher no space to make it to Murrays on the tarmac. As a result the Motorbase Ford lost control, cutting across the grass and t-boning Ingram on the left-rear wheel, and handing a third podium of the day to championship leader, Turkington.